Spooks with shady pasts

Germany's foreign intelligence service is looking into its past—and turning up Nazis

Spooks with shady pasts

Michael Sohn/AP

Germany’s foreign intelligence service is looking into its past—and turning up Nazis. After admitting last year that “about 200 former Nazi criminals” were in its employ after the Second World War, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) is in final talks with a team of historians who will be given access to the spy service’s files to create a public record.

The BND’s president, Ernst Uhrlau, campaigned for years for greater transparency, facing opposition both from inside the organization and from Germany’s government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s staff had blocked Uhrlau’s efforts, but relented after the finance and foreign ministries opened up about their own shadowy pasts. Exploring the intelligence files could be embarrassing for Merkel’s CDU, potentially confirming suspicions that Konrad Adenauer, the party’s founder and West Germany’s leader from 1949 to 1963, was aware of employees’ Nazi pasts.

Former chief inspector Georg Wilimzig’s squad murdered thousands during the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Former SS captain Johannes Clemens was involved in the execution of 335 civilians in Rome in 1944. Both were hired by the intelligence agency after 1945.

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